Hawkeye gold

Women's quartet wins first 6,400 relay at Drake Relays

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DES MOINES — A premonition percolated in Iowa distance runner Betsy Flood’s mind.

Its gold-foretold basis?

Personal history — and a teammate’s well-worn pair of socks.

“I was actually just thinking that the first time I ever won Drake in high school was my senior year in the (3,200-meter relay),” said Flood, who ran the first leg of the Hawkeyes’ historic triumph Thursday in the women’s 6,400-meter relay at the Drake Relays. “And (second leg runner) Jackie (Laesch) had her lucky socks on, so maybe today was going to be the day.”

It proved to be just that, thanks in no small part to McKenzie Melander’s dominant anchor leg of 4:40.5.

Iowa edged Minnesota, 19:16.73 to 19:17.71, and earned its first title in the event. The Gophers had won three straight and five of the past six.

“Three of us are seniors, so we’ve kind of waited a long time for this,” said Melander, a Minnesota native.

Flood, a former West Des Moines Dowling star, staked Iowa to a lead after 1,600 meters. Laesch ran a strong second leg, keeping her team a close second before Megan Ranegar pushed the Hawks back in front.

“This is my first year to be on it and it was really exciting last week when coach told me,” said Laesch, the lucky socks owner. “It was like, ‘Wow, that’s really something important to be part of this group.’”

It means something to Flood, too — for different reasons.

She’s kicked off four of these relays at Drake, helping Iowa finish second twice and third once before Thursday’s breakthrough.

“It’s my eighth Drake Relays, so I know it pretty well,” Flood said. “I’ve raced on it more than any other track, so it’s fun to win a race. It’s been a while.”

Elsewhere in Drake Stadium, Northern Iowa’s Daniel Gooris won the decathlon and teammate Olimpia Nowak was second in the heptathlon.

The Northern Iowa decathlete rolled up personal bests in Wednesday’s first five decathlon events, setting up a gold-winning Thursday.

“I really tried not to roll through day two too much in my head,” Gooris said. “It was probably the toughest night of sleep I’ve had in a long time. I just kept thinking about random stuff. Trying to put songs into my head. Anything.”Gooris totaled 7,624 points — 300 better than second-place Aaron Young of Wichita State.

Athletes with UNI ties have won six of the past nine Relays decathlon crowns.

Mat Clark, Gooris’ teammate, won two of the past three, but had to sit out this year because of injury.

“I knew it was my turn,” Gooris said.

Nowak set a school record of 5,686 points in the heptathlon.

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